NEW YORK FOLKLORE QUARTERLY
Vol. XXVII, No. 2, June 1971
THE CIVIL WAR SONGSTER OF A MONROE
Jean F. Gravelle
IN A trunkful of books stored in the attic of his family home in
Brighton, Monroe County, New York, Mr. James Edmunds discovered
a hand stitched, letter bound collection of manuscript songs written
in the hand of his grandfather, another James Edmunds in a long
line by that name. Being a Professor of English and Folklore at the
State University College of Brockport, Mr. Edmunds knew that the
manuscript would be of interest to other folklorists, so made a careful
transcription of all the songs it contained.
The land on which the Edmunds home stands has been in the
family since 1816, when it was purchased by Eliphalet Edmunds, a
native of Providence, Rhode Island. Eliphalet was one of the twelve
children of James Edmunds and his wife Abigail, who, in 1775, when
Eliphalet was eleven years old, began the migration of the family
toward the western frontier, a migration which took the family to
Clarendon, Vermont, to Franklin County, New Yark, to Lewis County,
Jefferson County, and, finally, in 1824, eight years after the purchase
of the property, to the town of Brighton, Monroe County.
Eliphalet’s grandson, James K. Polk Edmunds, born December
29, 1844, was the one who wrote down the songs in the manuscript.
When he was between nineteen and twenty-one years of age James
Edmunds recorded many of his favorite songs in his personal songster.
Since he did not serve in the Civil War, the songs were not learned
on the battlefield, though some of them are Civil War songs.
The manuscript itself is in a small, brown leather notebook with
lined pages. Although the stitching is loose, the pages have been well
preserved, and the handwriting, like lovely Copperplate, is quite
legible. James Edmunds, the present owner of the manuscript, was
able to identify the handwriting readily from other samples of his
grandfather’s writing. The pages are numbered, but begin with page
63. The first 62 pages may have contained additional songs or other
material, perhaps records of farm business, but they are missing. Some
of the songs are written in pencil. Fortunately, from the view-point
of the editor, they are repeated later in ink. They are presented here
in the order of their first appearance....
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